Ocean City Conference Focuses On Well-Being Of First-Responders

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Sometimes, first responders need rescue too…

About 200 first responders and their advocates have gathered in Ocean City for a two-day conference focused on their wellness and ways to support them as they deal with highly stressful, dangerous jobs – and in many cases declining community support.

On opening day Thursday, attendees took time to remember the many police officers, firefighters, medics and other responders who died responding to the September 11th terror attacks 20 years ago.

“It’s something that’s still heavy on our hearts, and I’m glad that we’re all together being able to remember those who were lost,” conference founder Shawn Thomas, a Seattle law enforcement officer, said.

Smaller-magnitude crises and tragedies can also strike hard to a first responder, such as trying to help a person who is battling substance abuse – sometimes repeatedly, and sometimes without success.

“It’s hard to be a first responder because most of us get into this job to help people, and sometimes people have to hit rock bottom before you can help them, and sometimes you just can’t help them at all,” Thomas added.

The conference has drawn first responders from throughout the region and from states as far away as California and Idaho. Presentations include recognizing, anticipating and preventing PTSD, depression and suicide.

Thomas said the risks and hazards of the role of a first responder are compounded by staffing shortages, and retirements and career changes have also resulted from the increased criticism and scrutiny of law enforcement in particular.

At the same time, Thomas said it’s still a rewarding field for people who are entering the job market.

“We need them.”

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